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Power Transmission

Transmission lines stretch toward the horizon in May 2017 as they carry power from Basin Electric’s Laramie River Station coal-fired plant outside Wheatland. Energy use drops on Thanksgiving as many businesses are closed.

When Wyomingites sit down for Thanksgiving on Thursday, they’ll be part of a trend across the country that shakes up normal electricity patterns.

Electricity use on a normal November day includes two peaks. People wake and burn power as they get ready for work. A higher peak exists in the evening when folks head home, turn on the lights, prepare dinner and crank the heat.

But on Thanksgiving the daily demand across the U.S. will fall below normal levels. Businesses are shuttered for the holiday, shutting down large volumes of commercial demand for power. Americans congregated in their homes will dictate an electricity pattern over the course of the day that will also diverge from the November norm.

Electricity use will rise later in the morning than usual as people across the U.S. cook Thanksgiving meals. Demand will arrive in a second, lesser, peak toward the evening meal. The following day, Black Friday, the morning peak will be lower and the evening peak higher.

The national holiday effect is similar in Wyoming.

“For Wyoming in particular, the demand peaks are a little less-pronounced than the system as a whole, but there were definitely two peaks (last year) on Thanksgiving Day,” said David Eskelsen, spokesman for Rocky Mountain Power — the largest power provider in the state. Rocky Mountain Power is the subsidiary of PacifiCorp. The utility operates across multiple states.

Last Thanksgiving demand in Wyoming started to rise around 9 a.m., peaked at noon and fell off at 1 p.m. A lesser peak in demand rose around 6 p.m., Eskelsen said.

Overall, the Wyoming customer demand for power is between 15 and 20 percent less on Thanksgiving than on a comparable November weekday, he said.

On Black Friday last year, a shopping day for some in Wyoming, peak demand lasted between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. and was slightly higher than on Thanksgiving, he said.

According to the Energy Information Administration, last year’s Thanksgiving morning bump in demand was higher than the previous two years. Demand started earlier as well.

Differences from one Thanksgiving to the next are largely due to weather, according to the EIA.

Last year, temperatures were unusually low on Thanksgiving Day for people in the Midwest and Northeast, meaning they were already using electricity to keep their homes warm before cranking the oven and the heat in the morning. Though not all homes in those regions were using electricity as their primary heat source, many still used it as a secondary source, according to the EIA.

Electricity is the most common source of energy used to cook — more so than natural gas or propane — from ovens that are slow roasting turkeys, to microwaves used for leftovers. A residential survey taken by the EIA noted that 63 percent of households use electricity for stoves and ovens. About 59 percent of households use the same fuel source for both cooking and heating their homes.

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Energy Reporter

Heather Richards writes about energy and the environment. A native of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, she moved to Wyoming in 2015 to cover natural resources and government in Buffalo. Heather joined the Star Tribune later that year.

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